Ep. 009: Chris Caffey, Caffey Distributing

011_Caffey.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

011_Caffey.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Chris Caffey:
We get so caught up in the rat race these days, if people would take the time to slow down, spend a little time getting to know their customers. There's just so many good people out there and we have the good fortune of selling and delivering a product that people want. So people are you know, they're always glad to see the beer guy. Yeah. Yeah. Whenever I tell people what I do, I'm instantly their friend. It's like, oh, you know, beer guy.

Tracy Neal:
The opposite of the IRS.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah, that's right.

Tracy Neal:
My guest for episode number eleven is Chris Caffey. Chris is the CEO of Caffey Distributing and Carolina Premium Beverage, both located in North Carolina. I recently traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, where Chris and I sat down in his office between two very interesting paintings which were not sports related. However, they were titled Offense and Defense. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. iSellBeer presents to you, Chris Caffey.

I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr Lebowski, I'm the dude.

Hey, I tell you what, you can take a good look at what was asked by sticking your head up there. But wouldn't you rather take his word for it?

Film and it. All the frickin chips. Kip.

A point. Don't be jealous that I've been shown online with games all day.

We have a pond in the back with a pool and a pot of tea. Good for you.

Welcome to the iSellBeer podcast with Tracey Neal, a production for sales reps and distributors who are driving around all day selling beer and the official home of the iSellBeer Nation Facebook group. And now your host. The 1989 winner of the John M. Studebaker Wheelbarrow Race in Hangtown, California, Tracy Neal!

Tracy Neal:
All right, Chris, welcome to the podcast. iSellBeer with Tracy Neal. Good to have you here.

Chris Caffey:
Thank you. Good to be here.

Tracy Neal:
Excellent. Let's start off with tell me a little bit about how you got in the beer business.

Chris Caffey:
So I call my story the beer brat story and a story not unlike many in our industry. Yeah, my father purchased the business in 1962 from the original founder who founded the business at the end of Prohibition. So essentially, my whole life, all I can remember is being involved in and around the beer business.

Tracy Neal:
And was that all in North Carolina?

Chris Caffey:
All of North Carolina started in Greensborough.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
Used to have pictures and fortunately, they're gone now. The first warehouse that my dad operated out of was a two car garage, basically the dirt floor and had one office that had heat.

Tracy Neal:
So for from a time perspective, give me a year.

Chris Caffey:
That would've been 1962. And he operated there for, I want to say two or three years. And then he'd moved to a bigger place.

Tracy Neal:
When you say two car garage, is this in a commercial industrial space? Is this actually your garage at your home?

Chris Caffey:
No, no. It was an actual what had been a mechanic's garage maintenance shop for.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
For cars.

Tracy Neal:
But it was basically a two car garage with a dirt floor.

Chris Caffey:
Dirt floor, a heated office, just one.

Tracy Neal:
In 1962?

Chris Caffey:
In 1962.

Tracy Neal:
And what brands did he deliver out of?

Chris Caffey:
He sold Miller High Life, Colt 45 and Carling Black Label.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
And the funny story, I don't even know if it's actually true.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, if you've heard it, I'm sure it's true.

Chris Caffey:
The way the story goes there. And around 1970, I'll say a guy named Leonard Goldstein was our area manager with Miller Brewing Company.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
Leonard, of course, ultimately became president at Miller Brewing. He was my dad's area manager. The story goes. And like you say, if I heard it, it must be true that somewhere around 1970, my dad sent him a letter to discontinue the Miller High Life brand.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
Because it wasn't selling well. Leonard Goldstein called him and said, well, you just keep the brands until we can find another distributor. My dad agreed, and the rest is history. So. So to speak. If if they had taken him up on his offer to sell discontinue Miller High Life. I'm not sure where we would be today.

Tracy Neal:
Was this because Miller High Life was struggling and around 1970?

Chris Caffey:
It was struggling around here? And now I want to say it's around 1970. Could've been late '60s but.

Tracy Neal:
Then when was when was the turning point that would have brought you?

Chris Caffey:
A big turning point, of course, was the introduction of Miller Lite.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
But, you know, we he had other brands in between their Rolling Rock and, you know, different things to to make ends meet. But typical entrepreneurial operation.

Tracy Neal:
Is Rolling Rock considered kind of not too far from Pennsylvania, right?

Chris Caffey:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
A little bit of a localized regional brand?

Chris Caffey:
You know, you have a hard time finding it now.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. Back in the day when it would have been considered regional?

Chris Caffey:
I don't know back in the day, I don't know, back in the day if it would have been considered regional. You know, it was a Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Arnold Palmer country.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
Arnold Palmer was kind of popular around here, so.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, yeah.

Chris Caffey:
You know, I'd say he had a following and that probably helped.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. So growing up in, growing up in a beer distributorship with a beer distributor family, did you always think to yourself, I'm going to go into my dad's business or did you have any aspirations to do anything outside of the family business?

Chris Caffey:
I would say from the time I was old enough to remember, I always said I'm gonna be a beer in the beer business, a beer guy. And it's probably true. We had a you could never do it today, but I think it was fourth grade, actually, where I was at school. They did. I don't know what you'd call it, but each each student set up their own business.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
And, you know, some kids made brownies to sell and he had paper money play money...

Tracy Neal:
Lemonade stand.

Chris Caffey:
Not real money, a lemonade stand or whatever. Well, my business idea was to sell beer patches.

Tracy Neal:
What's a beer patch?

Chris Caffey:
You know, with a patch that you would put on for.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
So I got my dad. He brings me home. I don't know how many patches Miller High Life and all the different brands, Black Label.

Tracy Neal:
All the brands that the guys would have on their uniform?

Chris Caffey:
All the brands the guys would have on their uniform. And so I took these beer patches to school in fourth grade and sold them. Yeah. Which, you know, of course you could never do it now. But my business was the most successful in the class. Everybody wanted to be your patch.

Tracy Neal:
My kids routinely borrow my my little good luggage? Sometimes. And then they always we always had put duct tape over the logos. You know, if they go later, like summer camp or whatever. And then all my logos are messed up with duct tape sticking out from my kid's bar and my luggage five times.

Chris Caffey:
But I credit that fourth grade experience at Irwin Elementary. I remember to this day.

Tracy Neal:
Was your boot the most successful?

Chris Caffey:
My booth was the most successful.

Tracy Neal:
You killed it, huh?

Chris Caffey:
I made the most play money. And I think that that was kind of the light bulb for me. Hey, this beer thing is a pretty good business.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. And it was real, real brands, too.

Chris Caffey:
That's true. Yeah, it was.

Tracy Neal:
You got the value of you learn the value of a good solid brand and.

Chris Caffey:
Learned that and learned, you know, I had my play money which I could then go around and buy brownies and lemonade or whatever else. Other people were selling pencils and that's cool. Yeah, it was sweet. I was a really kind of like I say, that's probably the light bulb experience for me. However old you are.

Tracy Neal:
And what year what year was this?

Chris Caffey:
This would have been I don't know how old your fourth grade.

Tracy Neal:
Fourth grade. Okay. So about fourth grade.

Chris Caffey:
What are you?

Tracy Neal:
Ten.

Chris Caffey:
Ten years old? So that would've been like nineteen seventy five.

Tracy Neal:
So it kind of reinforcing you a bit of business confidence too. Yeah. You know that you could you know because your dad wasn't selling patches now. I mean still in patches was was related to your dad's business. But it was actually your own idea.

Chris Caffey:
It was. Yeah. And yeah, that's my first business experience.

Tracy Neal:
That's cool.

Chris Caffey:
I guess you could say that's my first day on the job. But yeah, not really because I was in the warehouse before that.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. Yes. Let's go to that a lot. The big question I like to ask on this podcast is tell me specifically about your very first day. Remember on the job.

Chris Caffey:
So the first thing I remember on the job would be my official title was cardboard puller.

Tracy Neal:
Cardboard pullar.

Chris Caffey:
Cardboard puller. And so we used to get, of course, like everybody, all the beer came by rail and they put sheets of cardboard, maybe an inch thick spacers in between all of the pallets.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
To prevent damage. And on Saturdays, my dad, typical entrepreneur, he would go out to the warehouse to unload the railcars. And he took me with him. And as he would pull a pallet off, I'd go in behind him and pull the cardboard out and it saved him from having to get off and on the forklift, save him a lot of time, because you don't have to deal with pulling the cardboard anymore. So we would spend what seemed like all day I don't know how long we were there, but an hour call it. I'll call it all day. We'd spend all day with him unloading the rail cars and me pulling the cardboard off and putting it in an eight stack. And I think he probably gave me like a dollar at the end of the day. Yes. I want to say I was around nine or 10.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
But we we did that essentially every Saturday for as long.

Tracy Neal:
Did guys around the office call you the cardboard puller?

Chris Caffey:
I think only my dad called me.

Tracy Neal:
He called you the cardboard or made you feel empowered with a real job title.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah, but it was. It was important, I think, because it was real responsibility and it was a real meaning for me. It saved him time.

Tracy Neal:
You could see the tangible effort.

Chris Caffey:
I could see the tangible efforts. Yeah. Yeah, of course. Then I would do you know, like a lot of guys would sweep the floors and at some point I was a bottle washer.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
We have damage. I get to wash off the bottles and repackage and breakage. Yeah, I did that from the time I was 10 until.

Tracy Neal:
I just talked to Bob far from Waterloo, Iowa, and he was talking about bottle washing.

Chris Caffey:
Oh yeah.

Tracy Neal:
With a little bit of bleach in the bucket.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
That was that was his first job back as a kid.

Chris Caffey:
It's kind of funny because now, you know, we everybody's got to wear gloves and all that. You know, in there I was at 10, 11 years old, bottles covered in glass, broken glass. And I'm just there barehanded wash. You know, I never, ever.

Tracy Neal:
Slingin' the bleach.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. I never thought anything. Their safety glasses or any of that stuff. Okay, fine. And then then I remember getting put on a on a delivery truck. And I would did that every summer from the time I was about twelve, thirteen years old.

Tracy Neal:
Helping the driver actually being the driver.

Chris Caffey:
Helping the driver.

Tracy Neal:
So before you could drive.

Chris Caffey:
Before I could drive, you get on the right and and roll beer, basically, and that.

Tracy Neal:
So you're running a hand trucker dolly running hand truck.

Chris Caffey:
And it was everything was driver cell then, of course. Yeah. The Bill Taylor was the guy that I used to work with all the time. And he.

Tracy Neal:
Bill Taylor was a driver?

Chris Caffey:
He was a driver. He just retired about three months ago after over 40 years.

Tracy Neal:
And he retired here from Caaffey?

Chris Caffey:
He retired here were the only company he ever worked for.

Tracy Neal:
Wow. Congratulations, Bill Taylor.

Chris Caffey:
Pretty cool.

Tracy Neal:
That is cool.

Chris Caffey:
And his claim to fame is that there's not a single person in probably a 150 mile radius of Greensboro that does not know Bill Taylor. You go anywhere if you tell.

Tracy Neal:
I'm going to use that later today.

Chris Caffey:
You tell him you're from Greensboro and there's a good chance somebody is going to say, oh, do you know Bill Taylor?

Tracy Neal:
I could use that last line on on the plane. I met a guy from Greensboro.

Chris Caffey:
We're talking pretty funny about I would ride in the summer as Bill's helper. And that was the official title. I was a helper. And he would write the orders and whatever it was, I'd go out and start.

Tracy Neal:
Because it was driver cell.

Chris Caffey:
Driver cell. So I'd either start stacking beer and he would roll it or he'd stack and I'd roll it.

Tracy Neal:
So there were an Olympic event of rolling the hand truck full of six or seven cases of beer with all the guys that grew up in beer distributorships. How would you place.

Chris Caffey:
Definitely first.

Tracy Neal:
Definitely first?

Chris Caffey:
And especially if they gave points for broken beer. You know, Bill Taylor, one of the things I learned from him was. Empowerment. So even at 12 or 13 years old, you would watch me and I would stack you know, I was a tough guy. I thought speak strong 12 year old. And he would watch me stack, you know, 15 cases and lock him in and never said a word. And if I dropped him, that was fine. You know, if they fell off the hand, try out his beer everywhere, that was fine. And if I got it in the account, that was fine.

Tracy Neal:
You remember Wendel from the Miller Lite campaign a couple of years ago. I met him once and we were we were at a party that Miller had put on and we were talking about how he got the job and asked. Yeah. How'd you get this job? Because, you know, I try it out, you know, for a role down in L.A. and I was the only guy that tried out. And you had to do a delivery truck because they said that was part of the requirements and these other guys were stumbling with it. He goes, why? I delivered, you know, some beverage products in the past. So I just wheeled that thing around and did circles and they said, that's our guy.

Chris Caffey:
That's funny, yes.

Tracy Neal:
So that's why I ask about the Olympic event. I know once you learn how to do that, once you learn that perfect, perfect balance, you gotta. And the interlocking and multiple cases. Yeah. Like riding a bike.

Chris Caffey:
It is.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Tracy Neal:
So Bill Taylor taught me a lot about dealing with customers and building displays and rolling beer. And I think for me, one of the greatest experiences about that was C, you know, I learned from 12, 13 years old that our product, our beer was sold to a customer in a store and it took a relationship time and effort. And it didn't just happen.

Tracy Neal:
Because in your earlier I mean, make an assumption here because in your earlier childhood years, the trucks just left the warehouse full and came back empty.

Chris Caffey:
Full and came empty.

Tracy Neal:
So the other half of the business was invisible to you for as a child. And then when you get to be old enough to be on the truck, you like, wow, this is where it goes.

Chris Caffey:
And you also got to see how different customers were in every customer who's there. Every store is different. Everybody's different. Yeah. And nobody good or bad and so to speak, but everybody different. Yeah. And I really think I started to learn at a young age how to interact with people and customers. Okay. Listen to what they have to say. You don't always have to give them the answer they want, but at least listen to what they have to say and then have a route. You know, if you got to say no, at least have a reason.

Tracy Neal:
Who is your dad's favorite? The right word. But was your dad's go to, you know, everybody? I'm sure growing up, your dad had that one go to customer and that guy that was kind of his buddy.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah, honestly I don't know who that would have been.

Tracy Neal:
No?

Chris Caffey:
No. He I don't remember him ever talking about that. Okay. My dad was not for my my impression he was not a get out in the market kind of guy. And I. But I think that that was driven in retrospect, driven largely by just, you know, he was an entrepreneur and he was trying to, you know, like, well, he was unloading rail cars on weekends. Yeah. You know, basically run the warehouse and don't let the Ungarie side. And he had, I would say, some pretty decent sales guys that took their stuff out of the market. But I never really heard him talk much about customers that he interacted with.

Tracy Neal:
Was it called Caffey Distributing back then?

Chris Caffey:
It was called IH Cafffey Distribution Outlets, first initials, I and H.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. What was his first name?

Chris Caffey:
Ireland.

Tracy Neal:
Ireland?

Tracy Neal:
Ireland Hopkin's.

Chris Caffey:
Ireland Hopkin's. Those family names.

Tracy Neal:
Excellent.

Chris Caffey:
You go back in their genealogy. They're all their family names.

Tracy Neal:
Okay, great.

Chris Caffey:
So then my first call it my first real job was turned 16. Got my driver's license. And the next summer I was a merchandiser with my own room, my own responsibility.

Tracy Neal:
You know, boxcutter.

Chris Caffey:
My own boxcutter.

Tracy Neal:
A patch?

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. I had pad uniform patches and sales people who were counting on me to pack the box.

Tracy Neal:
Did you ever do anything with the patches after fourth grade?

Chris Caffey:
No, I never did.

Tracy Neal:
No?

Chris Caffey:
Kind of interesting. A side job in junior high. Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
You could've, right?

Chris Caffey:
Probably. Yeah, but nothing after that.

Tracy Neal:
Even today you could find those old patches on eBay instead.

Chris Caffey:
Wouldn't that be something. Yeah. Maybe there's somebody from fourth grade that's got a collection of patches they bought me for paper money.

Tracy Neal:
So you run the merchandise merchandiser route, feel like you've got a real job getting a real paycheck, paying some real taxes out of that paycheck.

Chris Caffey:
That's right.

Tracy Neal:
And you go off to college, right? Where did you go to college?

Chris Caffey:
Barely ent to college. No, I went to start at you and see Chapel Hill.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Tracy Neal:
An unsuccessful run there. Then came back to work full time and started going to school at night at a little place called Guilford College. It's a small liberal arts college right here in Greensborough. Okay. And then finished up there and went back to school at Wake Forest University and went to school at. OK. And I got an MBA there, which, you know, like like, oh, well, that's pretty cool, my guy. You know, they needed students and they said they let me. But I learned a lot. You know, people ask, why would you do that? You had this beer business. You're like, well, you're not grown up in a beer business. But I didn't have a whole lot of broad perspective. And I felt like a business education would give me a more a more broad perspective and opened my thinking to how business really works.

Tracy Neal:
So when you came out of that, would your dad still active in the business? How?

Chris Caffey:
He was still active, Lucy, he he retired. And I to say it was 92 ish.

Tracy Neal:
Ninety-two?

Chris Caffey:
Ninety two or somewhere in the early 90s. I can't remember exactly. OK. I have been 93, 94. But yeah, I finished MBA school.

Tracy Neal:
And you say here you go, sign here. The keys to everything. Well what do you make you jump through some hoops and kinda.

Chris Caffey:
You know I worked around. Yeah. I started working full time at 19 and going to school at night. And so I did a sales supervisor read three or four sales guys working for me. And I worked in operations and V.P. of operations and finished business school. And he made me think we call it executive V.P. and that was sort of my one year transition with him still running the day to day and overseeing things, essentially trying to let me make as many mistakes as I could make. But is somewhat of a safety net.

Tracy Neal:
Tell me about one of those big mistakes. It was a big mistake. He made early years probably at the time, might have seemed catastrophic. But as you look back on it, you think it was.

Chris Caffey:
You know, I think I got to give him credit for not let me make any real catastrophic mistakes. You know, I'm sure I've made a few, but I like to focus on the things I did well. I was successful at.

Tracy Neal:
Ok, well, let's end. What was one of the things you did really well? You remember a good success story in the early years?

Chris Caffey:
You know, I think probably I would call it bringing professional management and transitioning our company from what I call an entrepreneurial managed business to a more professionally managed business. And that know, I think was probably large part due to my education. And my dad never graduated from college. He was just again entrepreneur school of hard knocks. Yeah, but we started implementing some good, some bad. What I would call good business practices like a budget and planning and performance review and stuff like that. And so I think that probably was a really big transition for our company when we started, you know, hired a professional CFO. Prior to that, it was seen as just somebody in the business that knew how to count. Yeah. Hired a professional CFO and started working on what I call real business. Okay. And building an organization that could sustain itself without me, so to speak.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. Okay.

Chris Caffey:
So that's probably I think I've done a good job of doing that, building a business that's successful and sustainable. Despite my efforts.

Tracy Neal:
A lot of guys say that. So I know you have a couple of couple of children in the business today.

Chris Caffey:
I do.

Tracy Neal:
Okay.

Chris Caffey:
I've got Aaron, who's 20. Well, let's see. I guess he's 27 now. He was born in nineteen ninety two. Does that make him.

Tracy Neal:
I don't know.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. He's 26.

Tracy Neal:
Twenty six. Okay. So Aaron's twenty six.

Chris Caffey:
And once he's 26 he's, he's transition. We've called him in an executive in development and he's been working. We hired a gentleman to mentor Aaron and Leo was part of his responsibilities so they'll cardboard polaha. He worked in the warehouse Aaron. It's done his time. He worked in the warehouse and Summers and his first full time job with us was as a draft technician.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, yeah. I guess at twenty six. Twenty seven, he's probably been around the warehouse for ten years.

Chris Caffey:
He's been in and in and around it for about ten years. So he's gotten to see some of that. And I can remember him coming home with yellow paint all over his skin where our warehouse manager had him painting safety poles and stuff like that.

Tracy Neal:
The safety falls. Yeah, forklifts don't hit.

Chris Caffey:
Yep, that's it. So he's gotten quite a bit of that. Spent a good year and a half as a draft technician with all those responsibilities and good. Then we've started moving in him into learning more of the business and how it works. And then there's Leah, who is twenty three, and she's currently our H.R. manager for the Greensboro location.

Tracy Neal:
Great. And so, yeah, there's two locations. Right.

Chris Caffey:
Greensboro and Charlotte.

Tracy Neal:
Greensboro and Charlotte and how many total employees do you guys have?

Chris Caffey:
About 400.

Tracy Neal:
400 employees. Wow. So, yeah, H.R. Manjit, full time job.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. She's got a big job. We have an H.R. manager here in H.R. manager in Charlotte.And they both report to V.P. of H.R. at 400. I really say we have 400 families that work for us. Yeah. You know, it's the the guy or gal out on the streets. One thing. But a lot of them have the family back and her a partner or one, two, three, however many kids. We really have 400 families that work for us.

Tracy Neal:
That's great. Speaking of family, what does it what does it mean to you to be able to run? And I should add, is your father still alive?

Chris Caffey:
He's still alive.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Chris Caffey:
He's not. Can't remember the last time he set foot in the building. You know, he was I give him credit because when he retired, he actually retired.

Tracy Neal:
In 1992. Really?

Chris Caffey:
Around that. Yeah. I lose track of that.

Tracy Neal:
He asked how the business has gone or what's going on or.

Chris Caffey:
No, not really. Not really.

Tracy Neal:
He is a retired, retired, huh.

Chris Caffey:
And he retired. He retired. So I give him I give him credit for being able to do that. I'm not sure I will be able to do it when I do just want to retire. Hopefully I will.

Tracy Neal:
But I would imagine he's got a huge sense of pride knowing that you're continuing the family business and involving your kids in it for the next generation as well.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. So. Yeah, I hope so.

Tracy Neal:
And is that something that. I mean, is that something that you're excited about? How important is it to you to continue the family tradition of being in the beer industry?

Chris Caffey:
It's it's exciting. Yeah, it's I think what's most important for me is for my kids to find something that they have a passion for love to do and can be good at. Which I tend to think if people have a passion for what they're doing, they're usually pretty good at it. Yeah, I never wanted to feel an obligation to be here or pressure to oh, I've got to be in the beer business. And you know my what? Again, what was important to me is if they if they love it and have a passion for it, that I wanted to be here and be involved. But I don't didn't ever want to feel like it was an obligation. You know, find something new. I have a daughter who's a nurse and she loves it. You know, and that's that makes me just as happy as as great as the other kids who are involved in the business. I have a couple of stepsons who knows what they'll do. Yeah. You know, maybe one of them will help decide. The one I've worked for me, worked in our Chane department a couple summers ago, spent a summer there and seemed to enjoy it. Yeah, maybe one of them will come in and then have a real passion for, you know, that's, you know, not to be repetitive, but I want I'm just to love what they do have passion. And then the successful.

Tracy Neal:
That's that's I think most dads would agree with you. You know, be successful in and have a passion. Enjoy what you're doing. Be happy. Is there anyone out there that you like? Give a shout out to from a mentorship standpoint? I know you mentioned Bill Taylor, who just retired. Right. But other than that, maybe even outside of outside of this organization, anyone from any of your suppliers or anyone that gave you some coaching or some development over the years?

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. You know, there's probably been a few over. Let's see. I've been on it now 43 years if I go back to 10 years old.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah.

Chris Caffey:
And so I've met a lot of people over the years. And as you can imagine, some of them have made a real positive impact. Some of them not so much. Yeah. I think probably a person I've worked with the most over that time frame was a guy named Bill Dragger who actually works for us now. And then we'll retire at the end of January next year. But he popped in and out of North Carolina three or four times and worked for MillerCoors and, you know, real strong leadership characteristics, real set an example of knowing the business, understanding your business, real solid person. But he and, you know, I would say I've known Bill since I was probably twenty or twenty one. Yeah. When he first started in the industry as a I think they called him an area manager back then or a regional manager. I can't remember. You know, whatever the whatever the title of the day was back then, you know, you mentioned leadership.

Tracy Neal:
I can just sitting here in your office and looking around at the things that are on the walls, I can tell that leadership is really important to you and you spend a lot of time on it. And I'm going to try and do my best to describe these two paintings to our listeners here. We're in Chris's office. It's about I'm going to guess it's 20 feet by 20 feet. It's kind of a perfect square. Yeah. It's a perfect squares about 20 feet by 20 feet. Maybe it's 22, 23. On one side in the middle of the law is a seven foot painting. Probably seven by three, seven feet long, three feet high. And it has one, two, four, seven lions under a bush staring at me. And they're all kind of crouch. They've all got their mouths open, their mouths are watering. And these lions, if they look directly across the room on the other side of the wall is an identically sized painting. Is it by the same same same artist?

Chris Caffey:
Same artist, yep. John Banovich.

Tracy Neal:
John Banovich?

Chris Caffey:
Banovich. Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
And there are seven. What is it? Water buffalo?

Chris Caffey:
They're technically they're Cape Buffalo.

Tracy Neal:
Cape Buffalo.

Chris Caffey:
Cape Buffalo.

Tracy Neal:
To the layman water buffalo.

Chris Caffey:
They all look like a water buffalo. But it's a cape buffalo.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah, there's a herd of water buffalo looking back. And the title of the painting with the Lions is offensive line. And the title of the painting of the water buffalo is defensive line. And as you sit here in the middle of the office, it's very, very strange to be between the lions in the water buffalo. That's good. You're also you were telling me before that you're you're one of your passions is flying, that you're a pilot.

Chris Caffey:
It is. Yeah. I'm a pilot. Before we get to that, you asked me about mentors.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Chris Caffey:
Know, I wanted to also comment that I've probably learned more from the people that I grew up with in the business that worked for my dad at one point where my peers at one point. And, you know, ultimately all ended up working for me. Probably learn more from them than anybody else.

Tracy Neal:
Just from the whole organization.

Chris Caffey:
The whole organization. And we've had a lot of special people. I mentioned Bill Taylor, who retired. Yeah. After round 40 years. And we've had quite a few of those stories. He's not the first and won't be the last. And there's quite a few people here that I grew up with.

Tracy Neal:
And that's great. Yeah, I get it. I mean, only having only been here a little, I get a sense of, you know, real family business. And like you said, you don't have 400 employees. You have 400 families that you're intertwined with. You do anything, any special events or anything like that. You get to meet all these families.

Chris Caffey:
We try. Yeah, we do family events every year. You know, family picnics and stuff like that.

Tracy Neal:
And and you have some multi-generational employees.

Chris Caffey:
We've actually I've had a few. Yeah. Yeah. We've actually had a few fathers and sons or brothers and cousins. It's I think that for me is validating that for some people. Anyway, we're doing something right if they would recommend to a family member to come work here. Yeah. Yeah. If you have a friend you might say I go work there, it's fine. But hopefully you wouldn't send your family somewhere bad. Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
That's great.

Chris Caffey:
But now back to your other question. Fly to fly. I'm a pilot. A passion of mine. I've flown. I can actually fly before I could legally drive.

Tracy Neal:
Oh, really? You've been flying that long.

Chris Caffey:
Yep, since I was 15.

Tracy Neal:
OK.

Chris Caffey:
Just, you know this. Yeah, it's just a passion I love to fly. Anything aviation I'm in. That's my, my, my.

Tracy Neal:
So it's more than just a transportation advantage. You just sometimes you just go up and fly to fly. Yeah. As opposed to necessarily going from point A to point B.

Chris Caffey:
You know, a lot of times I'm also a helicopter pilot and some Saturdays, probably a couple times a month. I'll just go get in the helicopter and go fly around Greensborough for an hour, hour and a half and look at a topi blob's fly around and look at nothing. But you know, of course, you're looking at everything on the ground. It's just, you know, it's kind of you know, some people go to play golf. Saturday morning I go fly.

Tracy Neal:
Well, had I known that, I might have nudged you for a little ride the other day. And I felt like I went through three airports to get here.

Chris Caffey:
We could've gotten here fast. Yeah, for sure.

Tracy Neal:
Now I know. Okay. You know, a lot of our listeners are sales reps. And we like to say, you know, they're driving around all day selling beer. They're listening to this. You know, what would you say to sales reps, whether it's within your organization or maybe just around the country, whether they're working in Seattle or Indianapolis? What what's great about this industry? You know, somebody who's maybe they just took a job as a sales rep or maybe they've been it in two or three years. You know, we've got there's a lot of sales reps out here that know what they want to do and love it. But there's also a few there thinking, you know, I don't I don't know about this industry. I'm new to it. I don't know how I'm going to grow my career. I don't know where I'm going to go or what how am I going to provide for my family over the next 10 or 20 years. Is this the right industry? And it may not be the right industry for everybody, but it's certainly been the right industry for you and your family. What advice can you give to sales reps out there that are considering this as a long term career?

Chris Caffey:
You know, for me, the beer business is one of those. You've probably heard it said once it gets in your blood, you know, you can't get out. And I think that that's kind of true. One of the things that I've always loved about our business is the people aspect of it. And I'm sure you hear this that a lot, too. Yeah. Yeah. If you could we get so caught up in the rat race these days, if people would take the time to slow down, spend a little time getting to know their customers. There's just so many good people out there. And we have the good fortune of selling and delivering a product that people want. And. So people are either they're always glad to see the beer guy. Yeah. You know, whenever I tell people what I do, instantly their friend. It's like the all, you know, beer guy.

Tracy Neal:
It's the opposite of the IRS.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah, that's right. So I'm instantly their friend. I'm instantly invited to every party because they think I'm going to bring free beer. But again, my career in the business, what I've always loved is is. Getting to know people and interacting with people. And yeah, there's jerks out there, but the vast majority of our customers and consumers are just good, decent people that like to have a beer. And, you know, I found generally anybody that likes to have a beer is probably a pretty decent person. You're not that people that don't drink aren't decent people. But, you know, my interaction has been. Obviously, with a lot of people who like to drink beer.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah. So do you do you find yourself out in retail? Do you go out in the trade often?

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. Do not call my retail activity kind of convert. I eat out a lot and whenever I eat out, I talk to the customers where I eat managers.

Tracy Neal:
So you got the on premise cover?

Chris Caffey:
Got the on premise covered. I like to pop in store. You know, if I'm on my way home and. Go by the Harris Teeter, I haven't been in in a couple of weeks, I'd like to just pop in.

Tracy Neal:
And so Harris Teeter is a large just because we've got people all over the country listening intently. A lot to learn. Want to hear. Harris Teeter is a large format grocery store.

Chris Caffey:
Harris Teeter is a large format grocery store, like a.

Tracy Neal:
Like a Safeway, Kroger.

Chris Caffey:
Like a Safeway or Kroger, Albertsons, Publix.

Tracy Neal:
And how many Harris Teeter do you have in your geography?

Chris Caffey:
We have 45 I believe, okay, there are second largest customer behind food line and we service things around a hundred and twenty food lines.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. So these top two chains are top two chain one sixty one seventy five on stores.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
Excellent.

Chris Caffey:
But I don't necessarily go and spend a full day at retail riding around it and that tends to get a bit tedious for me. And after about the third stop I'm like okay, it's another cold box, you know that I've looked at for forty three years and I tend to think that I get a little bit clouded vision when I do it that way versus if I just hit one store in the morning or one store in the afternoon. It's. My impression is different than if it's my 14th store of the day, which I still will do. Those supplier Rodwell's. Yeah. And it's always seems to be by the tenth store. Nobody really cares anymore. It's like I always go look at this more store.

Tracy Neal:
As a as a distributor owner. What's one of the biggest challenges that you're facing? Whether it's a market challenge, is it a consumer challenge. Is it a organizational structure challenge? Is it managing and motivating employees challenge? I don't know what it is, but what's what's kind of the one big challenge that you're facing right now as a distributor owner?

Chris Caffey:
I think it is finding hiring and keeping good talent. And there's particular positions that everybody would talk about, like drivers finding finding drivers that are willing to drive and lift the cases know people just it's I mean, it's hard ass work.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah, it's hard work.

Chris Caffey:
I've done it. I've been there and it's hard.

Tracy Neal:
You said your're forty three years, you're in the business.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah. So it's hard work and finding people that want to do that. And then when they look down the street and the like, oh, I can go make an extra 5000 bucks and bump docs. Yeah. So what we're you know, we're trying to.

Tracy Neal:
I hear that by the way, I hear the driver market is very competitive and I've heard that before. Across the country right now, it's a challenge. The driver market is competitive because our our business is hard work. Exactly what you said. There's other jobs where you just bump the docks.

Chris Caffey:
Bump the docks. You know, merchandise is another position. It's an entry level position. And and, you know, it's hard work. Yeah. You're going into a supermarket and.

Tracy Neal:
Used to be the football players during the summer.

Chris Caffey:
Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
Football players are at summer camp.

Chris Caffey:
That's right.

Tracy Neal:
You're doing football.

Chris Caffey:
So anyway, back to it's finding recruiting and keeping talent. Yeah. And I'm not going to criticize the millennial generation, but I think that generation is a bit challenging sometimes. The video game generation, it's.

Tracy Neal:
Instant gratification.

Chris Caffey:
Instant gratification and you know, a lot of sedentary activity. Yeah. It's it's all entertainment and fun. Then you go out and try to do a job. It's not entertaining necessarily and not always fun and actually a lot of hard work.

Tracy Neal:
You know, I read an article the other day that McDonald's is experimenting with the instant gratification challenges of the millennial generation on same day payroll. So you work for five hours at McDonald's and you go home and there's money in your bank account. Well, it's been a FTD directly for the exact hours that you worked that day. And I don't know if I have a you know, I don't know, getting an opinion of whether I think it's good or not. But I just think it's interesting. It'll be it'll be interesting to see how that plays out over time. You know, certain McDonald's is certainly probably a good one to try it out with their workforce.

Chris Caffey:
It is interesting.

Tracy Neal:
I don't think it was a national rollout. It was a single geography. But I thought that was really interesting that they thought that that was the right way to do it.

Chris Caffey:
It is kind of interesting and kind of seems like a you know, we're going to fight it, so to speak. Fight this instant gratification mentality or we're going to embrace it and see if we can make it work for us. You know, maybe even perhaps may end up being very progressive. Yeah.

Tracy Neal:
Okay. was--we as we wrap this up here. Thank you very much for sharing your story. But I also want to ask one last question. That is I know, you know, the the iSellBeer platform is new to your organization. In fact, one of the reasons I'm here today is to do some hands on training with your your management team on running certain reports and working on getting adoption against display support, a feature increasing that out in the trade, so can you give us a like a 30 second shameless plug on why you thought we were a good solution for the industry, why you thought we were different to help you sell more beer?

Chris Caffey:
Well, yes. So for me, it was part of what I liked so much about the iSellBeer platform. And I'll say it two ways. I think I've said this to you before. Is it to me as somewhat of an Apple stupid platform? And what I mean by that really the probably the more positive term would be, it's keep it simple platform. And I love that it. You know, there's no mystery to it. I think you told me early on that the training sounds something like take a picture of every display every week. Yep. And that's all you have to know as a sales consultant.

Tracy Neal:
That's our instructions.

Chris Caffey:
And that appealed to me more than as much as measuring execution. And, you know, because I think we sometimes tend to overcomplicate our business. And we've got all you know, always the is the ad feature bill to what time and how many cases and where does it go. And all that, that as I looked at the iSellBeer platform, it started to kind of light bulb form is, you know, what do we really want? We want to get displays on the floor. We want to measure our execution against ad features. And we want to grow that. If we can grow the displays on the floor, we're gonna sell more beer. And it seemed like for me, for our organization, just that simple platform, take a picture. And our managers can look real time. See when ads are executed or not. It just seemed like a no brainer. Like I say, I say Apple, stupid. That's a term I stole from my twenty six year old son. And it's so true. You know, you get an iPhone, you turn it on and it just works. There is no owner's manual.

Tracy Neal:
If you use owner's manual for anything these days? It's the wrong product.

Chris Caffey:
That's right. And then iSellBeer platform. Don't need an owner's manual. Don't really need to do anything other than know how to use a phone, which everybody does.

Tracy Neal:
Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you for the kind words and thank you for your partnership in being our execution partner. You know, there's a quote that I once heard by Albert Einstein and I I'd like to say that I love it, but I'd kind of be lying if I said I actually understood it. It's why these quotes I'm I'm still pondering because I don't necessarily know if I understand it completely, but it says make things simple but no simpler than simple or something to that degree.

Chris Caffey:
I'm not sure I understand that either.

Tracy Neal:
Make things simple, but no simpler was the quote. And on one hand, it's like I want to love it because I feel like, yeah, things should be simple. Things should be apple stupid. But then when he says but no simpler, I'm like, well yeah. I think I get that. But sometimes I don't think I do.

Chris Caffey:
I'm not sure I get it either.

Tracy Neal:
That's why we're not Albert Einstein.

Chris Caffey:
For sure.

Tracy Neal:
A great quote, make things simple but no simpler.

Chris Caffey:
I like it. I may steal it.

Tracy Neal:
Awesome. Well, I know that you've listened to our podcast. Now you're on it. I know that you're on our Facebook page and you follow our Facebook is iSellBeer Nation the Facebook group, our Twitter handles iSellBeer Nation and I've got you on LinkedIn as well. So for all the followers out there, if you're not on one of those, check us out, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you so much, Chris, for sharing your career. Give me a parting words of motivation or excitement as we get ready to go out and at the trade.

Chris Caffey:
Now, I can't call myself a motivational speaker, but here my parting words would be to thank you. Your you and your platform are going to help us sell more beer.

Tracy Neal:
That's awesome.

Chris Caffey:
That means more success for us and the 400 families that are part of our business. So thank you.

Tracy Neal:
That makes that makes me feel good. Because that's what we want to do. We don't we don't want to be a software company. We wanna be execution partner. We want to help you sell more beer. So thanks for saying that. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me today. All right. Awesome. Thanks, Chris.

Chris Caffey:
Thank you.

Tracy Neal:
Take care. Make it a great week. So what's the best tasting beer in America? Who cares? That's for the consumer to decide. And until they do, you will keep selling them new brands every day as a distributor sales rep. You can become a part of the iSellBeer Nation by subscribing to this podcast and using the #iSellBeer in all your social posts. Also, be sure to join the iSellBeer Nation Facebook group and visit our website. Our industry is an up and down the street business where local relationships matter. I want to thank you for making me part of your day and wish you good luck on the objectives for your next account call. In fact, I know you're gonnacrush it.

Automatically convert your audio files to text with Sonix. Sonix is the best online, automated transcription service.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Better audio means a higher transcript accuracy rate. Automated transcription is much more accurate if you upload high quality audio. Here's how to capture high quality audio. Sonix has the world's best audio transcription platform with features focused on collaboration. Automated transcription can quickly transcribe your skype calls. All of your remote meetings will be better indexed with a Sonix transcript. Sonix takes transcription to a whole new level. Are you a podcaster looking for automated transcription? Sonix can help you better transcribe your podcast episodes. Get the most out of your audio content with Sonix. Do you have a podcast? Here's how to automatically transcribe your podcasts with Sonix.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2020—it's fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your audio to text, try Sonix today.

Wait! Before You Go

FREE DOWNLOAD: A deck on Motivating Generation XBOX (your employees who spend all night gaming)